Record Budget Insanity

It’s official: Our government ran a record $180.7 billion over budget in July, the Treasury Department said today. That’s just a bit over Wall Street expectations and just under the Congressional Budget Office estimate we reported Monday. Thus the government tab so far this fiscal year is a record $1.27 trillion, not the record $1.3 trillion the CBO guessed earlier this week. Phew… what a relief.

A few more scary details:

  • The budget deficit is still on track to exceed $1.8 trillion by October, the end of the fiscal year. That would be four times last year’s record budget
  • July spending rose to over $332.2 billion, an all-time high
  • Government revenues fell 5.6% from last June, to $151 billion
  • Those revenues have been lower than the same month the year before for 15 straight months.

And we doubt Uncle Sam will get much help from tax revenues anytime soon… even “cash for clunkers” couldn’t save American retail sales in July. The Commerce Department’s July retail sales number shocked the Street this morning, down 0.1%, despite expectations of a 0.8% rise.

The government’s cleverly acronymed Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) program did help — without auto sales, the retail gauge would have fallen 0.6%. But the lowly consumer has made his point: Even with free money deals from Uncle Sam, retail is not ready to “get back on track,” as the Obama administration likes to say. In fact, even if the Street’s wish came true, we’d still be a long way from the old status quo.


In a similar vein, Wal-Mart’s latest sales numbers missed expectations this morning. While still profitable, the world’s biggest retailer saw same-store sales fall 1.2% in the second quarter — well below the Street’s forecast of a 1% rise.

Interestingly, Wal-Mart enjoyed 13 straight months of better same-store sales from April 2008-April 2009. Then they suddenly stopped reporting monthly sales and switched to quarterly. Now, in their first quarterly report, sales are down. Hmm… must be a coincidence.